Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 6 (Tuesday) — Summary: The Story So Far
I think it’s helpful to pause here and zoom out for a minute.
I’ve called this Jesus’s Manifesto, his most concise expression of what he intends his called-out community to be. It is a speech to his students, the disciples. We get to listen in because it’s also a speech to us, his newest disciples.
Jesus starts off by flipping the script upside down: happiness is not found where most people think.
Notice that to the first people he mentions, “the hopeless,” he promises the kingdom of the heavens. The last people he mentions are “those who are harassed,” and he also promises them the kingdom of the heavens. He then says, “Oh, by the way, I’m talking about y’all, because y’all are a new community of prophets” whose reward is great in the heavens. And he concludes his exhortation of this community by saying we will bring praise to “Our Father in the heavens.”
Do you get the picture? If you feel hopeless and harassed by the world, congratulations! You have been recruited to be part of the cosmic drama. God is bringing the heavens to earth, and y’all are the instrument.
When he starts off, we probably think his words are about someone else. But they are about us, and the concrete difficulties of trying to be a community of peace, justice, and mercy in a world that does not value such things.
Go back and read it again, slowly. I’ve printed the full introduction below, with my translation choices. See how masterfully he weaves this speech. I am constantly in awe of it.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. He taught them, saying:
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of [the heavens] is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit [the land].
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of [the heavens] is theirs.
“Happy are [y’all] when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in [the heavens]. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
“[Y’all] are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. [Y’all] are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in [the heavens]. (Matthew 5:1-16)